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Freedom Is as Freedom Does: Neuropragmatism, Neuroethics, and Free Will

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Nel presente articolo sosterrò che sebbene il naturalismo liberalizzato abbia buoni argomenti a favore del pluralismo ontolo- gico antiriduzionistico, esso non riesce tuttavia a mantenersi su un livello pienamente naturalistico. Il motivo di ciò risiederebbe in un’a- desione non completa al programma del pragmatismo, rispetto al quale il movimento di De Caro mantiene un background metafisico problematico. Fornirò un esempio di simili problematiche prenden- do in esame il tema del libero arbitrio e l’argomento dell’abduzione, le cui implicazioni sembrano delineare un agente incompatibile con le leggi naturali. Infine, sosterrò che il pragmatismo di John Dewey, grazie al suo stretto legame con l’esperienza e al rifiuto della metafisi- ca come studio di proprietà essenziali, rappresenta forse la migliore teorizzazione per un naturalismo pluralistico e non antiscientifico.
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This book has both a negative aim and a positive aim. The negative aim is to show that some recent influential scientific claims about free will, consciousness, and action-production are not warranted by the data. These claims (by Benjamin Libet, Daniel Wegner, and others) include the following: your brain routinely decides what you will do before you become conscious of its decision; there is only a 100-millisecond window of opportunity for free will, and all you can freely do in that window is veto conscious intentions that you were about to execute; intentions and their physical correlates play no role in producing corresponding actions; and free will is an illusion. The positive aim is to show that there is powerful empirical support for the thesis that there are effective conscious decisions and intentions to act.
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Expert opinions have yielded a wide and controversial assortment of conceptions of free will, but laypersons seem to associate free will more simply with making choices. We found that the more strongly people believed in free will, the more they liked making choices, the higher they rated their ability to make decisions (Study 1), the less difficult they perceived making decisions, and the more satisfied they were with their decisions (Study 2). High free will belief was also associated with more spontaneous associating of choice with freedom, and with the perception of actions as choices. Recalling choices (Study 3) and making choices (Study 4) led to a stronger endorsement of the belief in free will, and an additional effect of the level of choice involved in the choice. These findings suggest that the everyday social reality of beliefs about free will is a matter of how people think and feel about choice.
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The subjective feeling of free choice is an important feature of human experience. Experimental tasks have typically studied free choice by contrasting free and instructed selection of response alternatives. These tasks have been criticised, and it remains unclear how they relate to the subjective feeling of freely choosing. We replicated previous findings of the fMRI correlates of free choice, defined objectively. We introduced a novel task in which participants could experience and report a graded sense of free choice. BOLD responses for conditions subjectively experienced as free identified a postcentral area distinct from the areas typically considered to be involved in free action. Thus, the brain correlates of subjective feeling of free action were not directly related to any established brain correlates of objectively-defined free action. Our results call into question traditional assumptions about the relation between subjective experience of choosing and activity in the brain's so-called voluntary motor areas.
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The question of how we can voluntarily control our behaviour dates back to the beginnings of scientific psy- chology. Currently, there are two empirical research disciplines tackling human volition: cognitive neuroscience and social psychology. to date, there is little interaction between the two disciplines in terms of the investigation of human volition. the aim of the current article is to highlight recent brain imaging work on human volition and to relate social psychological concepts of volition to the functional neuroanatomy of intentional action. A host of studies indicate that the medial prefrontal cortex plays a crucial role in voluntary action. Accordingly, we postulate that social psychological concepts of volition can be investigated using neuroimaging techniques, and propose that by developing a social cognitive neuroscience of human volition, we may gain a deeper understanding of this fascinating and complex aspect of the human mind.
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Using an evolutionary perspective, this article examines the cogency of the libertarian formulation of free will—that is, that individuals have free will if they “could have acted or chosen otherwise under identical conditions.” The article argues that by representing the agent as a disembodied self acting and choosing in logical rather than in contextualized, lived-in space, the libertarian formulation misconstrues human willing in ways that invite a host of philosophical problems that persist to the present day. This article indicts the Platonic penchant for theoretical explanations consisting of necessary and sufficient conditions that capture the “essence” of terms, while discounting “naturalistic” ones that depict organisms navigating their environments in ways promoting their reproduction and survival. Securing naturalist-based correctives of neuroevolutionary phenomena like “free will” may represent a growth industry for scholars interested in remedying the kinds of problems generated by traditional forms of metaphysical speculation on the nature of intentionality.
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Prospection-the ability to represent what might happen in the future-is a broad concept that has been used to characterize a wide variety of future-oriented cognitions, including affective forecasting, prospective memory, temporal discounting, episodic simulation, and autobiographical planning. In this article, we propose a taxonomy of prospection to initiate the important and necessary process of teasing apart the various forms of future thinking that constitute the landscape of prospective cognition. The organizational framework that we propose delineates episodic and semantic forms of four modes of future thinking: simulation, prediction, intention, and planning. We show how this framework can be used to draw attention to the ways in which various modes of future thinking interact with one another, generate new questions about prospective cognition, and illuminate our understanding of disorders of future thinking. We conclude by considering basic cognitive processes that give rise to prospective cognitions, cognitive operations and emotional/motivational states relevant to future-oriented cognition, and the possible role of procedural or motor systems in future-oriented behavior.
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Neural correlates of value have been extensively reported in a diverse set of brain regions. However, in many cases it is difficult to determine whether a particular neural response pattern corresponds to a value-signal per se as opposed to an array of alternative non-value related processes, such as outcome-identity coding, informational coding, encoding of autonomic and skeletomotor consequences, alongside previously described "salience" or "attentional" effects. Here, I review a number of experimental manipulations that can be used to test for value, and I identify the challenges in ascertaining whether a particular neural response is or is not a value signal. Finally, I emphasize that some non-value related signals may be especially informative as a means of providing insight into the nature of the decision-making related computations that are being implemented in a particular brain region.